Uncovering an England I Never Knew

So what’s it like to be back in London? This loaded question keeps being asked yet I’ve quietly gone about my transition landing in the Big Smoke undetected as if I were a phantom. No Facebook broadcasting, Instagram snapshotting or even blog writing. Gasp. But that doesn’t mean I’m holed up in seclusion exactly.

Because honestly, being back in London simply just feels like home. I feel normal as if I haven’t lived away from the US for close to five years and on the other side of the world gallivanting around the South Pacific.

Strangely, for the first time in all my times moving abroad, I don’t have the overwhelming anxiety and confusion over moving somewhere new. There is no culture shock, which even surprised myself. It’s such a massively refreshing feeling to know where to go and what to do. I know to stand on the right on the escalators, how to weave in and out of chaotic commuter people traffic, which sandwiches at Pret are my favorite and which ready-meal curries to avoid. I was elated last weekend to be even more in my element at Hawker House, a foodie night market with craft beer and hipsters in East London.

Street Feast, Hawker House

Street Feast, Hawker House

I’m heading up a marketing team at a tech start-up in trendy Richmond, and enjoying the fact that after 8.5 years with one company I’ve landed in a role that ticked all my boxes: start-up, newly created position, leadership opportunity, fun culture, technology focused and international. This means I’ll get to travel to see family and friends in New York more regularly and continue to go exploring in Asia and beyond.

I’ve taken the leap as an ‘adult’ to live alone in a one-bedroom flat in my old, posh stomping grounds of Nottinghill. This is the hardest transition of all as I’m used to my social calendar being filled months in advance and friends to dine with all nights of the week. With a long commute and late working hours coupled with my poor cooking skills I’ve decided in such a multi-national city that I should be living with flat mates again to meet people and explore new areas. I’ve landed on Clapham Junction, a middle-class neighborhood south of the river that will get me to work, the city or my friends in East London in about 20 minutes. It’s full of restaurants, nightlife and boutiques and even better, infiltrated with Aussies so I may just feel even more at home once I move at the end of December.

I’m also experiencing a very strange gravitational pull toward France. This happened while visiting Paris again recently in August 2014, and then I fell in love with Bordeaux in July 2015. As I begin to learn more about French wine I find myself planning on how to get to each unique region over time. Only two weeks ago I found myself back in Paris with two Australian friends hopping between arrondissements, sipping wine, eating fondue and waiting in an extremely long line to have my breath taken away at the magnificent view from the top of the Eiffel Tower. I never expected to say that it was so worth it.

In fact, I have a feeling that Paris will substitute what Sydney was for me in Australia; An opportunity to jump over every few months and catch up with an American friend just living the life like a local. We’ll see. For now though, I’m already booked to head over to Lille in January and Lyon to taste the wines of Cotes de Rhone in May.

So as a newly arrived expat I’d only be staying true to form if I devised my ‘must-do’ list or what others would deem as a bucket list. So here it is:

  • Uncover an England I’ve never experienced before
  • Hot-air balloon over Cappadocia, Turkey
  • See the Northern Lights and Fjords in Norway
  • Go to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
  • Eat dumplings in Hong Kong
  • Drive down the coast of Ireland
  • Eat kimchi in Seoul
  • Learn French/Italian wine
  • Create amazing, lasting friendships
  • See family/friends more regularly
Kalymnos, Greece

Anywhere but Europe

I made a promise to myself when I moved home from London in May 2007. I’m not allowed to return to Europe until I’ve seen more of the world that frankly, isn’t Europe.

I broke that promise in 2008 went I went for one last trip over to Greece but it was also the first time I stepped foot on Asian soil while briefly on the Turkish island called Bodrum, so I figure technically it was okay.

The following year I went to Thailand. That was my first Southeast Asian experience complete with Full Moon parties on the beach, $5 massages and picturesque long tail boat rides. It tore at my soul when I spoke to the bazillionth backpacker we met and realized I wasn’t doing the typical Southeast Asian backpacker circuit. Up until that point though, I didn’t even know it was a thing. I had no idea that Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam – these are the playground for mid twenty somethings who had saved up all their money at a real job to spend it all on a 6 month adventure having no job. I had 10 days. Hello Thailand, good-bye Asia.

In 2010 I ventured to Australia for the first time. I didn’t even want to. Australia felt safe to me, and easy. Almost as easy as just going back to London. Somewhere that I knew at some point in my life I’d go and wasn’t sure if it needed to be now. But, my travel buddy friend was going, so it was go or go somewhere else alone and at that point in my life I was too intimidated to travel solo. In that short trip though I unexpectatdly fell in love with Sydney nightlife and Queensland weather. I knew it was the right next step for me so less than a year later I moved to Australia and have been here for almost 3 years since.

In that time, the 7 years since I left London, I have declined offers of weddings in Tuscany and festivals in Sweden. But to make up for it I stayed true to my vow, and maybe even a little off course, to only travel on this side of the world. That has allowed me to adventure across Australia, to New Zealand and back on multiple occasions, as well as Japan, Vietnam, Fiji, South Africa, and soon to be Bali and the Gili Islands of Indonesia.

But despite all the places the world can take you to my heart sometimes just yearns for Europe. It aches for the dark pubs of London and those tempting english accents, as well as for the vineyards in France, the warehouse parties of Berlin and the beers of Antwerp.

I bit the bullet and said screw my rule; the world is small enough to not have to make geographic limitations. This August I’m offically going back to Europe!